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With brands clutching tightly to their marketing dollars, some publishers deployed combat-worthy strategies to maintain business, be it through incentives, marketing programs or in-store promotions.
Other titles diversified their advertising mix to help boost pages outside of core categories — such as personal care products, food, automotive or pharmaceutical — to counterbalance the loss of business from the luxury and fashion sectors. “Just because business has been here for 10 years doesn’t mean that it will be here tomorrow,” said Bill Wackermann, Glamour’s senior vice president and publishing director. “It’s a whole new ball game, a whole reboot of how we do business.”
Of the few that saw positive gains, People Stylewatch grew pages 23 percent to 624, but the title is relatively new, having begun publishing on a monthly basis in 2007. And while More added 11 more pages in 2009 than last year, at 918, that’s still 30 percent fewer than the 1,300 the magazine carried in 2007. More vice president and publisher Brenda Saget Darling found that “marketers are starting to have a different conversation. They can’t focus on the aspirational customer but they are looking for readers and consumers who have money to spend.” More’s fortysomething professional readership was an attractive target for new advertisers such as Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, Ralph Lauren, Coach and Giorgio Armani Fragrance, Darling added.
Moving into 2010, publishers are breathing somewhat easier as the economy shows faint signs of life. Publishers point to beauty, automotive and food categories as sectors that are holding steady. Some December issues are already showing increases, among them Marie Claire, In Style, Cosmopolitan, Glamour and Women’s Health.
Lucky’s Gina Sanders said the first quarter is looking positive for the magazine, with January being the second-largest issue in its history for that month. Allure’s January issue will be up five pages over last year’s, with 45, and In Style’s Connie Anne Phillips said 2010 “is encouraging” and that she’s already seeing a bump in business in the January issue. Hearst Magazines executive vice president, chief marketing officer and publishing director Michael Clinton focused the company’s 2009 sales meeting on resiliency and flexibility as the company goes into 2010 with seven of its magazines in January posting ad page gains. And Florio said even if Vogue’s revenues are flat in 2010, “our profits will be up substantially, almost double, on the same revenues of 2009,” helped in part by having a more cost-efficient operating structure after Condé Nast dictated all the company’s titles cut their operating budgets.
Such comparisons are against soft numbers in 2008 as the recession started to take hold across print. But Sanders argued the gains are a sign advertising dollars are percolating. “In black-and-white terms, is the faucet on or off? It’s on,” she said. “It might be a trickle, but it’s on.”